Finland: the forest as a formal and informal learning environment

Today we are discussing with Saara Nissinen, researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, in Savonlinna, who talks about a project to open the class to her community.

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Today we are talking (in English) with Saara Nissinen, researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, in Savonlinna, who talks about a project to open the class to her community.

Text by Alexane St-Amant

The “École branchée educational meetings” are podcast interviews with school stakeholders from here and elsewhere. In this episode, our collaborator (and concept designer) Marc-André Girard talks to Saara Nissinen, a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland in Soaplinna.

Saara Nissinen is a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland at the Savonlinna campus. She has been working for three years on a project called "the forest as a learning environment" (Forest as a learning environment).

After completing her studies in translation and teaching and working for a few years as a substitute in schools, Saara discovered that her passion lay in the research and development of educational practices.

His project aims to create bridges between formal and informal education by imagining new learning environments and using the expertise present in the community. In eastern Finland, the forestry industry could, beyond its importance in the economic sector, be put forward to provide new educational opportunities.

Co-development, network and pedagogy focused on design

As part of this research project, Saara and her colleagues invite teachers to participate in different types of project, with a view to co-development. This allows teachers to collaboratively define the phenomena they want to work on in the classroom, as well as the deadlines and rules. They have access to training, support from the research team but also moments of discussion and networking with their peers to discuss ideas and challenges encountered.

The research project discovered that when students have the opportunity to influence their own learning, they begin to use innovative tools and methods. The teachers, for their part, learned that greater openness to the surrounding community could enrich learning.

An invitation to join the project

Saara ends by launching a call for collaboration:

As teachers and educators face the challenge of developing learning practices that arm students with mindsets and competencies needed in the increasingly globalized world, our interest is on building global learning networks between students, teachers, and researchers from different parts of the world. We encourage the learners to co-design an inquiry learning projects together with their teachers and peers around a real-life challenge or problem that are personally meaningful for them as well as to the local area, or to the scientific community (ie, climate change , biodiversity). Such open-ended learning task also encourages students to expand their learning to out-of-school learning environments and communities, which in previous projects has made the utilization of students own existing networks as well as diverse external expertise and other community resources possible. An example of such project can be found from here.

The complete time frame aims and working rules are co-developed together with the participating teachers. We would like to invite interested school classes to participate in constructing global learning networks. The projects would take place in fall 2018. For more information, please contact:

(Press the “Play” button below to start the audio interview conducted in English!)

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in humanities education (1999), a master's degree in history teaching (2003) and a master's degree in educational management (2013). He is currently a doctoral student in school administration. He specializes in change management in schools as well as in educational leadership. He is also interested in 21st century skills to be developed in education. He holds a managerial position in a public primary school and gives lectures on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in the school environment as well as on the professionalization of teaching. He took part in educational expeditions to France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book “Le change en milieu scolaire québécois” with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the school of the 21st century with the same publisher. He frequently collaborates with L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and school administrators as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement.